The Smoker: Portland’s Best-Kept St. Paddy’s Day Secret

This past weekend, I attended one of the most badass events I’ve ever been to in Portland. Just when I was about to rush out of the office on Friday and dive headlong into my unremarkable weekend plans, a coworker stopped by my workspace and slapped a fancy-looking laminated ticket on my desk.

“Wanna see an amateur boxing match tonight? It’s Ireland v. USA. Should be a good time,” he said, walking away before I could give an answer. He knew I would show up.

That tantalizingly brief description left me a little underprepared for what I was about to experience though. As I rode the elevator down to the lobby and headed out up toward Kells downtown pub, I had no idea what I was about to experience. The phrase “amateur boxing” conjured up images of a dingy, dimly-lit ring surrounded by bro’d-out MMA fanatics wearing Tapout t-shirts and drinking piss-warm Miller light.

But that’s not how Kells Irish Pub rolls.

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 As soon as I stepped through the door, I was swept into a sea of sharp black suits flowing toward the rear exit. Apparently the action was going on out behind the bar — a place that was normally just a parking lot. Tonight, it was anything but.

When I finally got pushed out the door, I found myself standing in a place similar to what I imagine heaven might look like. Everywhere I looked, waitresses ferried trays of whiskey to cigar-smoking patrons; gourmet Irish hors d’oeurves were doled out on glimmering silver trays; and if you even so much as thought about smoking a cigar, a waitress would materialize in front of your eyes to light one up for you.

On one end of the tent, scantily-clad burlesque dancers teased the audience with an on-stage strip routine. On the other side, platters full of roasted potatoes, meat pasties, and hot prime were served up to anybody with an appetite. And a the center of it all, the eerily empty boxing ring stood as a reminder of things to come.

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I honestly wish I could continue telling this story in great detail, but at a certain point memory of of the evening gets hazy. Maybe it was the cigar smoke (so thick you could hardly see the fight by the end), maybe it was the copious amounts of Jameson I consumed over the course of the night, or maybe it was the onset of a prime rib-induced food-coma — but my recollection of the night’s festivities is now just a series of quick flashes.

Warm whiskey; chanting; a smoke ring breaking apart as it lands gently on the table; a fleck of sweat knocked loose by a well-placed uppercut — it’s all mashed together in my head now. All I know is that I woke up the next day with a mild hangover and a grin I couldn’t wipe off my face. You most definitely want to attend next year. Mark your calendar.

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